Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hodge Must Pay the Final Price for Hypocrisy

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hodge Must Pay the Final Price for Hypocrisy

Article excerpt


IT takes more than money to put some things right. The estimated [pounds sterling]20,000 package millionaire Margaret Hodge has agreed to pay to try and buy her way out of the sexual-abuse scandal engulfing her career is cheap at the price.

Twenty thousand pounds to right the wrong of branding Demetrious Panton "an extremely disturbed person" in what can only be seen as an attempt to discredit him and save her own skin. This was a man she knew had been sexually abused for years while in care, Islington Council care to be precise, the same Islington council Ms Hodge presided over.

Twenty thousand pounds to right the wrong of trying to call in the old-pals' act by writing to BBC chairman Gavyn Davies and attempting to bully the Corporation into dropping a story investigating Ms Hodge's alleged involvement in the case.

I'd say she got off cheap.

But you have to ask, what message does it send to the victims of child abuse when the Minister for Children politically abuses victims like Demetrious?

Even if she survives this episode, Hodge is damaged goods. She is no use to Tony Blair now. Their friendship may mean she hangs on to her job, but not her credibility.

That's shot to pieces.

This is no witch hunt. It's a hypocrite hunt and it is right for the BBC to conduct it. In this most important of briefs, there is no place for a woman who claims the high moral ground while knee deep in her own deceit.

And nothing becomes a female politician less than to embrace the bully-boy tactics of New Labour.

Unfair as it is, Ms Hodge also suffersthe Myra Malady. Women are expected to protect children, not harm them, and are judged much more harshly than men when they appear to fail to do so.

In this post-feminist world, we should judge women by the same standards as we judge men, but we don't. Let's face it, Alastair Campbell was not hounded out of office for briefing that Gordon Brown was "psychologically flawed".

The tactics of sneer and smear are essential to New Labour, never more skilfully executed than during the destruction of Mo Mowlam's reputation.

She's lost her mind, poor Mo, advisers to Number 10 said often enough for people to start to believe.

I have always supported the creation of a Minister for Children and initially thought Hodge was a good appointment, but no longer. She does the kids she's there to help no service by staying now.

Much bad news came our way when I worked as William Hague's press secretary, but word that New Labour donor Greg Dyke was to run the BBC was up there with the worst. It was topped only by his appointment to chairman of New Labour supporter Gavyn Davies.

But we were wrong, about both Dyke and Davies: wrong to assume their political allegiances would influence their professional obligations. In their handling of Gilligan versus the Government, they have been ferocious in their defence of the BBC. Much to Hodge's surprise, when she wrote to Davis smearing Demetrious and asking for the story to be dropped, the chairman refused to play ball. All credit to him for giving no quarter, and none to Hodge for expecting it. …

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